DA chief meets with various farmers’ group

by Nov 13, 2023Featured Article, News

MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. has met with various farmers’ groups as he continues the reorganization within the Department of Agriculture.

Elias Jose Inciong, United Broilers Raisers Association president, said many issues, including those on trade policies, were discussed during the consultation yesterday.

The consultation, held in Taguig City, was attended by Sen. Cynthia Villar who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture, food and agrarian reform as well as by several lawmakers led by Rep. Mark Enverga, who chairs the House committee on agriculture and food.

Also attending were Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chairman Rosendo So and SINAG executive director Jayson Cainglet.

Cainglet welcomed Laurel’s efforts to reach out to various stakeholders, saying this “ushers in a new era of collaborative working relationship” between the agriculture industry and the new Department of Agriculture (DA) leadership.

Meanwhile, Raul Montemayor, Federation of Free Farmers national chairman, said yesterday that the spike in retail prices of rice is “a bit alarming.”

This spike, he explained in a radio interview, is alarming because it is happening during the peak of harvest season and after another peasant group warned that the cost of the staple food could reach as high as P60 per kilo in December.

Montemayor described the upward trend in the farmgate price of palay and the retail cost of the grains as “very unusual.”

“We are surprised at the upward trend in the farmgate price of palay when we are at the peak of the harvest. (It is) very surprising as normally, especially this October and November, we have bountiful harvest and the trend should normally be downward. (But) there are places where the farmgate price reached as high as P30 (per kilo), although the average is around P25 or P26 per kilo,” Montemayor pointed out.

In an earlier interview with The STAR, So said the farmgate price of palay reached P31 per kilo, which might lead to a P60-per-kilo price for well-milled rice in December.

Montemayor cited as among the reasons for the spike faulty DA data on the expected volume of harvest and the hesitance of traders to import rice, fearing raids on their warehouses and charges of economic sabotage, among others.

The spike in the retail prices of rice, he added, could persist until next year.

“I would think that on this critical issue, he (Laurel) would immediately call the stakeholders to determine the situation and the needed actions. He should not let this issue blow up in his face,” Montemayor stressed.

Based on the monitoring of the DA, the retail prices of local regular milled rice ranged between P33 and P50 per kilo; P45 to P54 per kilo for local well-milled rice; P50 to P62 for local premium rice and P50 to P65 for local special rice.

For imported rice, the prices ranged from P45 to P80 per kilo for well-milled; P50 to P60 for premium and P55 to P63 for special.

Educational backround

Meanwhile, Laurel clarified yesterday reports on his educational background, after the University of Santo Tomas Office of the Registrar said he was not a UST computer science alumnus and did not pursue any undergraduate studies at the university.?He explained that he was forced to give up his studies at UST to raise his eldest child.

“Let me clear the air about my educational background, given news reports that claim I am an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas, or any other institution of higher learning. That is not true. I never finished my education because I became a father at 19. I needed to work to support my eldest child. My father impressed upon me that my responsibility as a father comes first,” Laurel said in a statement.?The statement added that he instead helped build the family’s flagship company, Frabelle.

“Like many, I dreamt of wearing a toga and receiving a diploma. But that wasn’t meant to be. The sea became my university, experiences in life taught me the value of perseverance, my children gave me the courage and inspiration to get to where I am now and the good fortune I have today, I enjoy through God’s grace,” Laurel said.

He also said he divested from the family businesses upon entering public office.

Also, Laurel issued Special Order 1369 appointing Roger Navarro as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Office of Undersecretary for Operations. Navarro previously served as special assistant to National Food Authority administrator Roderico Bioco.

“All officials and employees of the department, including its bureaus, attached agencies and corporations and regional field offices are hereby advised of this designation and directed to give the full support and cooperation to OIC Navarro in the performance of his duties and responsibilities,” the order read in part.?

Half-cup rice pushed

Meanwhile, Quezon province fourth district Rep. Keith Micah Tan filed a Bill at the House of Representatives that seeks to require food establishments to offer a serving of only half a cup of rice and penalize food establishments that refuse to serve half-cup rice orders.

President Marcos originally filed the measure when he was a senator, and it was subsequently sponsored by Tan’s mother and now Quezon Gov. Helen Tan during the elder Tan’s term in Congress.

House Bill 9510, otherwise known as the “Anti-Rice Wastage Act,” seeks to considerably reduce rice wastage in restaurants, commissaries, cafeterias, cafes, lunchrooms, bistros, fast food establishments, food courts, buffets, eateries, retail bakeries, mobile food trucks and dining areas in accommodation establishments.

Tan, now a House assistant majority leader, said the proposal was filed in response to the DA’s call to require food businesses to include half cup of rice in their menu.

He added that this does not only aim to reduce rice wastage, but also promote the nutritional well-being of the Filipinos.

If approved into law, food establishments will be required to provide one-half cup of rice serving as a menu option. It also imposes a fine of P5,000 for the first offense; P10,000 for the second offense and P20,000, including suspension of license or permit to operate, for not less than 30 days for the third offense and subsequent offenses.